Vacant properties blog series will examine solutions to growing regional, national housing challenge
On Feb. 12, Cook County's vacant building ordinance takes effect, intended to help communities get a handle on both the sheer numbers and conditions of vacant properties in their borders. The ordinance requires owners of vacant properties to list a building as vacant on the county registry (if the community where the property is located is unincorporated) or on a municipal registry (if the municipality where the property is located chooses to partner with the county). The ordinance also requires all owners of vacant properties (whether the original mortgagees or new owners) to take responsibility for maintaining that property (mortgagees within 60 days of a mortgage default; new owners within 30 days of vacancy or after assuming ownership). Cook’s ordinance is very similar to an ordinance the Chicago City Council adopted in November 2011. That ordinance is now the target of a lawsuit, filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), claiming Chicago’s rules encroach on FHFA’s role as the sole regulator and supervisor of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own about 258,000 mortgages within the city. FHFA is seeking an exemption for those mortgages; Chicago has vowed to take it to the courts.
According to the Woodstock Institute, nearly one in ten residential buildings in Cook County is VACANT.